Today we are going to talk about five tips for winning Tribal grants. Native American Tribes have been mistreated by state governments and the Federal government for hundreds of years. The atrocities and cultural trauma inflicted on Native American Tribes is horrific. Many Tribal communities struggle to provide their residents with even the most critical infrastructure quality basic services such as healthcare, education, job skills development, access to economic opportunity, and more.
Officially, the poverty rate for residents of many Tribal communities is about one in three. But visit many Tribal Reservations and you’ll find that the ‘real’ poverty rate is often 50% or even higher. Why is that? First, most Native American Tribes were forced off much of their Native lands and sometimes, even relocated by force. As a result, the Tribal community landscape today shows that most Reservations are located in rural, geographically isolated areas that are not inherently suitable for economic development. Also, they tend to have a low population density (coupled with the poverty mentioned above) that makes many of the difficult places for traditional providers to offer services at an affordable rate while still making a profit.
This situation pushed some Tribes to establish casinos as a revenue source but for many Tribes, the financial results have been mixed at best.
In an effort to change this situation--at least somewhat--the U.S. federal government offers a number of Tribal grant opportunities, to help Tribes to build critical infrastructure such as roads, clean water sources, offer high-speed broadband internet and to develop social service, educational, healthcare and other programs.
Different Types of Tribal Grants
The U.S. federal government of the United States offers several different types of Tribal grants to carry out activities such as:
Economic development and economic development planning
Rural business development grants
Homeland Security grants
High-speed broadband infrastructure development grants
Domestic violence/sexual assault prevention, education and victim service grants
Behavioral health grants
Healthcare provision grants
Law enforcement grants and more.
Grants are offered by a diverse range of federal agencies such as the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Energy, Economic Development Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA. Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Administration for Native Americans, and more.
In some cases, grants from these agencies are offered to both Tribal and non-Tribal applicants, but in some cases, grants are only available to Native American Tribes. One example is the Consolidated Tribal Assistance Grant, which provides critically-needed funding to support a variety of different public safety programs and initiatives.
Spread across some states, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has offices that can assist Native Americans in their pursuit of grants. There are also a number of state agencies that offer grants--some of which can be just for Native American Tribes, while others are also offered to other types of communities and agencies as well.
Charitable Foundations That Offer Tribal Grants and Grants for Native Americans
Grants for nonprofit purposes are also widely available for Native Americans. In fact, a quick search of the Foundation Center shows that there are more than 5,000 different gants that support Native Americans and Native Alaskans. However, only some of these are offered directly to Tribal governments. The majority of them are available to nonprofits that provide services to different populations, including Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
Most charitable foundations are bound by charter to only provide grants to nonprofit organizations with 501c3 status. There are a few exceptions such as the Colorado Health Foundation, which does provide grants to Tribal governments.
In addition to the Foundation Center, you can also find a list of grants available for Native Americans (some are only available to nonprofits while some are available to individuals) at GrantsForNativeAmericans.org.
Here are some examples of the types of grants you can find for Native Americans at this site:
The Salvation Army covers several locations in the US, making it accessible for various Native American tribes. Their grants help individuals pay their bills. They also provide meal programs. For the requirements, locate a Salvation Army office near your location and justify how the grant can help your situation.
Another non-profit grant is from Catholic Charities, one of the largest charities in the US. Similar to the Salvation Army, they provide bills payment assistance. For Native Americans who have experienced calamities, the American Red Cross is also a good choice to apply for grants.
Improving the lives of Native American women and girls is the purpose of the $1,500 Soroptimist Club Grant. These are typically given in increments of $500, thus it’s important to explain the depth of the need.
Starting or continuing projects aimed at improving the lives of females gives you a good shot to win the grant. The deadline for application is every March 1st and there are 30 of these grants up for grabs. For example, in the fiscal year 2016-2017, the Soroptimist Club granted 28 grants amounting to $120,000.
5 Tips for Winning Tribal Grants and Grants for Native Americans
My basic tips for winning Tribal grants and other types of grants for Native Americans are very much like the success tips I would offer for successfully securing any type of grant. Here they are:
1. Read the instructions:
This sounds very obvious but it is such a common mistake that I can’t tell you how many Tribal grants I have seen immediately kicked out because the proposal writer didn’t fully understand or follow the directions. Yes, instructions you find the the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) or Notice of Funding Announcement (NOFA) are often confusing and ambiguous, but the responsibility falls on you to figure them out and understand them. If you aren’t sure, there is always an agency contact. Ask questions if you are not sure. Always be sure to address all criteria and never forget to include a required attachment.
2. Don’t Make Assumptions About Prior Knowledge:
All too often I see Tribes write their proposals with the assumption that the reviewers have the same background knowledge about the Tribe and its particular problems that the Tribe does. That is rarely the case. Reviewers can be from all parts of the country and from all walks of life. Concisely provide relevant data about the Tribe and be sure to provide recent statistics (generally no more than five years old if possible, unless asked to use data from the last Census, which is done every 10 years or the last Agricultural Census, which is done every 7 years).
3. Don’t Take a Shotgun Approach:
Every funding proposal you write should be unique and specific to the funding priorities, goals and objectives of each funding agency and the funding opportunity at hand. The ‘Shotgun Approach” refers to basically reusing the same proposal again and again, sending it to as many potential funders as possible. I have almost never seen that approach be effective.
4. Include Measure Targets:
All funding proposals should include goals, SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Specific) objectives and specific outcomes if appropriate. Those numbers should be both ambitious, yet attainable. I always aim for the conversative side. It’s better to beat your targets than fall short. You will also need a plan for evaluating the degree to which you meet your goals, objectives and outcomes. Public and private funding agencies want to know whether or not their investment was successful and impactful. The only way for them to know is for you to include a realistic plan for evaluating progress, reporting progress and using that information to refine, strengthen and improve your approach as appropriate.
5. Develop a Plan to Sustain Your Initiative:
Public and private funding agencies are very much like venture capitalists and angel investors in that they want to invest in initiatives and programs that are going to be around for long-term. At the very least, include a well-thought-out preliminary plan for sustaining your initiative beyond the grant-funded term.
So there you have my five tips for winning Tribal Grants and Grants for Native Americans. I have won well over $400 million for my clients. Together with my colleague, we have raised well over $800 million.
In addition, I have served as a reviewer and review team leader responsible for awarding more than $1 billion in funding. My colleague and I work with Tribes throughout the United States, developing innovative initiatives to pressing community problems, and then getting them funded!
Interested in learning more about Tribal grants and grants for Native Americans?
Contact us today and let’s talk!